Ten grocery staples to nail the flexitarian diet

Our resident dietitian, Melissa Meier, gives us her list of the top 10 flexitarian kitchen must haves. Happy cooking!

Ten grocery staples to nail the flexitarian diet

Our resident dietitian, Melissa Meier, gives us her list of the top 10 flexitarian kitchen must haves. Happy cooking!

It’s 2021 and eating well has never been more important. At the same time, eating well has never been more confusing. Before you jump on the next fad diet bandwagon, I’d suggest trying something a little more sustainable called flexitarianism. Essentially, it’s flexible vegetarianism.

The idea is that you eat a vegetarian diet most of the time, but you can still enjoy a juicy steak or piece of fish every now and then if you wish to. You’re crowding out your diet with oh-so-good for you plants, but not eliminating any single foods or whole food groups – and this balanced approach is something I’m all for. Interested? Here are ten grocery staples, aside from the obvious fruit and veggies, that are a good place to start.

1. Tofu

Made from soybeans, tofu is packed with protein and can offer a significant amount of iron for oxygen transport and calcium for strong bones and teeth. It’s super versatile and perfect for anything from stir fries to burgers to soups.

2. Chickpeas

Part of the legume family, chickpeas are packed with health perks. They provide low-GI carbs for long-lasting energy, protein to keep hunger pangs at bay and fibre for a healthy gut. I love to add them to salads or toss them over a tray of veggies before baking them in the oven.

3. Quinoa

Time for a quick science lesson: proteins are built from amino acids, some of which are ‘non-essential’ (i.e. can be made by the body), and others are ‘essential’ (read: must come from food). Plant foods tend to be lacking in at least one of the nine essential amino acids – but quinoa contains all of them. How cool is that?

4. Extra virgin olive oil

My number one recommendation when it comes to healthy cooking oils, EVOO is jam-packed with healthy fats that are essential for a happy heart. Plus, it makes food taste delicious!

5. Edamame

You might’ve tried edamame beans at your local Japanese, but you can also buy them from the frozen section of your local supermarket – and they’re a wonderful way to add superstar legumes to your diet. Try them in homemade poke bowls or Asian-style noodle salads.

6. Brown basmati rice

Long-grain brown rice offers wholegrain low-GI goodness. It’s jam-packed with far more essential micronutrients than its white rice counterpart (like iron and Vitamin E, for example) and is digested slowly, helping to keep your blood sugars balanced.

7. Nuts

No variety in particular – all nuts offer brain-healthy fats, plant-based protein and gut-loving fibre. Perfect for snacking, throwing on top of muesli and salads or stirring into baking, you should be eating a healthy handful of nuts every single day.

8. Canned tomatoes

A staple on my weekly shopping list, canned tomatoes help you make delicious sauces from scratch – saving all of the sodium and added nasties many store-bought marinades and meal bases provide.

9. Lentils

Also a type of legume, there’s a lot you can do with health-giving lentils. You can use red split lentils in dhal, green lentils for a hearty salad, tinned lentils in shepherd’s pie... the opportunities are endless, so get cooking.

10. Peanut butter

Yep, the old faithful PB. Not only is it delicious, it’s also very nutritious, boasting stacks of healthy fats to support your heart and brain. For a healthy spread, I’d recommend a variety with no added sugar or salt – something that’s 100 per cent peanuts.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.